“The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water” by Charles Fishman is an exciting journey into civilization’s evolving relationship with water. Tales from across the globe, depicting relationships of abuse, dependence, and even worship are humbling and remarkably frightening. Fishman reaches beyond stories of physical scarcity and questions why there are dolphins swimming in the Las Vegas desert and why hundreds of Delhiites must line up twice a day for water they must carry home. Much like Fishman’s last book, The Wal-Mart Effect, good research and captivating writing helps unpack the nuances of a new global phenomenon.
Fishman’s grim descriptions are overshadowed by inspiring tales of innovation from the grassroots level to companies like GE and IGBM. Breakthroughs in rainwater harvesting, productivity, and recycling at all levels are recreating the way we interact with water. Fishman’s articulation of the world around water spells out a cautionary tale that helps readers understand that water is both elusive and indispensable.
A 2009 report by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) titled “Status of Water Quality in India-2009” lists the most recent results from a water quality study using 1700 aquatic monitoring stations across India. Data retrieved from streams, rivers, lakes, tanks, and groundwater sources indicate that organic pollution, particularly Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) and Coliform, are the major sources of pollutants. The Markanda River showed the highest concentrations of BOD, almost 198 times the acceptable range of 3mg/l while the Yamuna River faired the worst polluted river in terms Fecal Coliform concentrations. The most polluted waterways have been identified and charted for restoration projects by the CPCB.